Thoughts on Logo Design
Logos are probably the most ubiquitous pieces of graphic design around. Try to keep a count of how many you see when you next take a walk down your local high street. If you’re in an office, look at the incoming mail and see how many pieces of branding there are amongst the correspondence. Logos are the visual identity of businesses and organisations from the small to the multinational. They’re probably all over your phones home screen, on your clothes and beaming out of your TV.
It’s hard to define what makes a great logo or say how to make a great one, but to start with I’d like to talk about some logos I personally love.
The Studio Canal logo, presented here in its pre credits form is one I’ve always admired. The font and the negative space around it are just a perfect representation for what Studio Canal are, a high quality French film distribution and production house. This pre credit piece is where it really comes to life. A swirl of coloured light that at first creates the anamorphic bars at the top and bottom of the frame only for that very light then to flare beyond the bounds of said frame. A visually poetic way of depicting a company who specialises in classic films that sometimes break the rules.
Rockstar were the bad boys of the video game world in the late 90’s. Their Grand Theft Auto series set hearts a flutter worldwide and they had a striking name and image to live up to the hype. Their logo resembled a clothing brand more than a software studio and had a level of cool that carried it to mainstream recognition. As their business expanded they began to experiment with different colour schemes for their logo while still retaining their iconic and inflammatory avatar.
Logos have their roots in seals and makers marks but have grown beyond the trade market. I have designed a number of logos and its a daunting process. When you’re creating a logo you’re essentially drawing a portrait of the entity you’re drafting it for. You somehow have to represent all the people and ideas that operate under this icon. This piece of design will the be the most common form of visual identification your client will be using for communicating to the world. It will be on every piece of branded material they release, so in my opinion the best thing to do is to get to know these people and try to translate that into an icon as best you can.
The challenge is doing this with a very limited set of tools. There can’t be any wasted space. If we’re to talk in painting terms, your canvas will be almost minuscule. You have to create a piece of art that will convey the same amount of information and power on a postage stamp as it would on a billboard.
Often your colour pallette is limited as companies will want to brand all in one colour or at most a combination of two or three. If the logo is to be pasted on small objects there won’t be much point in going into crazy detail on accompanying illustrations and if the logo is to be writ large you have to manage the amount of detail to put in with the idea that it will also be displayed on a smaller scale eventually. Fonts are incredibly important and can add greater meaning to the words they form so must be chosen extremely carefully.
This is where the research comes in, if you have limited choices you should have the best possible reasons for making them. Delve into the history, practice and philosophy of your client as much as you can. If its an old family business, talk with the members and find out what has kept them together for generations. If its a new start up hoping to invent a world changing technology, talk to them about their dreams and aspirations and what difference they think they’re going to make. When you know and understand the people behind the business as well as the purpose of the business you’ll be in the best possible position to create their visual identity.
I think that’s the difference between good and great in logo design. The difference between creating something bland and creating something meaningful.